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Interview with Emil C. Gotschlich

In this interview, Emil C. Gotschlich, born in 1935, talks about his childhood, discovering his interest in research, and his work developing vaccines for meningococcal disease. Gotschlich describes his initial research at Rockefeller and recounts how his mentor in medical school, Chandler Alton (known as Al) Stetson, an early postdoc of Maclyn McCarty’s, helped him get a research position in McCarty’s lab in 1960. Gotschlich tells the story of being drafted in 1966, as soon as he was promoted to assistant professor at Rockefeller, and how he was sent to the Department of Bacteriology, headed by Malcolm Artenstein, at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where he spent two years working on meningococcal disease, which was rampant among Army recruits.

Gotschlich gives a detailed account of how he developed a new method to isolate meningococcal polysaccharides at high molecular weight and tested their immunogenicity. He describes the research Irving Goldschneider, who also was a draftee in the Department of Bacteriology, was doing at the same time on immunity to meningococcal disease. In 1969, when Gotschlich was back at Rockefeller, he, Goldschneider, and Artenstein published their research findings in five articles in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. Over the next several years, Gotschlich worked with the World Health Organization and developed the standards, which received FDA approval, for the production of meningococcal capsular polysaccharide vaccines.

This short film is excerpted from the oral history interview conducted with Emil Gotschlich on December 10 and 12, 2019.